Speaking of Constantinianism, and assuming the editors of ModernReformation are accurate, it would seem that Albert Mohler expresses an angst which betrays the residual belief that promotion of Christianity through the powers of the state is a good thing by what he says about a possible Mormon presidency: “…the greatest danger of electing a Mormon as president is drawing attention to the church and giving it credibility.”
I have heard this before, and given our current political climate these days, I run into this ethos more and more. It usually rides the back seat on the tandem cycle of religious animus, the front seat reserved for the curious notion that since Mormons can’t figure out cultic truth, how can one be trusted at the helm of cultural endeavor? (As if true religion were a matter of pure induction and reducible to choosing the most sensible retirement plan—little wonder the front seat is usually captained by less-than-Calvinist decisionalists).
If Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in North America, it would seem that many have already given it attention, see it as credible and likely to be appreciably unfazed as to who takes up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue. What sentiments like Mohler’s miss is the nature of that credibility: spiritual versus worldly. Those that would champion a truly spiritual warfare, it seems to me, couldn’t care any less about what a worldly institution does or doesn’t imply. If one fears the credibility worldly office lends a falsehood, then it must follow that one feels rather secure about what that same office might do for true religion. But both the fear and security of worldly credibility reveals a rather low view of the supernatural power of God to convert the darkened and depraved human heart and a rather high view of the tools of the flesh to effect the same, ostensible protestations notwithstanding. So let the leader of the free world be Mormon, or Hindu, or Pantheist, or Baptist. If St. Paul seemed rather pacific about the fact that his Roman Emperor thought he was a deity in the here and now, why should we care if our President thinks he will be one in the hereafter—unless, as the sub-text of Mohler’s fear seems to imply, there really is something religiously credible tied up in American presidentialism that wasn’t there in Caesar? But if so, something tells me Paul would have covered that somewhere.
And yet, I am nothing if not able to concede when I can agree with a Southern Baptist Convention leader. Reading further, I was a bit aghast to see that Richard Land expresses something I seem to find myself muttering as well these days in response to those who haven’t yet shaken off the worst of Walter Martin in using the C-word to describe perfectly sane fellow citizens, failing miserably to distinguish between Jonestown and Sault Lake City: “Mormons are neither Christians nor cultists.” Alas, the joy of new-found ecumenism is predictably short-lived as my inner cynic tells me that while we may make the same utterance, it is done for different reasons. My Reformed hermeneutics tell me to read Land’s piece within his “Christian Nation” whole. Beyond his bizarre claim that posits Mormonism as “the fourth Abrahamic religion” instead of a religious system founded by a gifted charlatan eventually cut down by an angry mob, and given his unabashed Religious Right credentials, I suspect Land is more driven by the very Constantinianism that yet ails Mohler. In other words, Land is driven by a sacralized politics and evidently will stop at nothing to make sure that the third rail of his social gospel platform (read: abortion) is not abated.
All told, I cannot decide which is worse: Mohler’s fear and security of worldly credibility that perpetuates Constantinianism, or Land illegitimately lending religious credibility to a religious falsehood in order to perpetuate a mere social gospel. Maybe I will tip another sacred Southern Baptist cow by breaking an institutionalized legalism and simply throw some dice.